The Theme of Revenge in "Hamlet"

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Revenge is a recurring theme in Hamlet. Although Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death, he is afraid of what would result from this. In the play Hamlet, Hamlet’s unwillingness to revenge appears throughout the text; Shakespeare exhibits this through Hamlet’s realization that revenge is not the right option, Hamlet‘s realization that revenge is the same as the crime which was already committed, and his understanding that to revenge is to become a “beast” and to not revenge is as well (Kastan 1). According to David Scott Kastan in “Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge” Hamlet is concerned that he will leave a “wounded name” behind (1). What Hamlet fails to realize is that his name is already “wounded” because his father was murdered. However, Hamlet is his father’s son and therefore he is attached to his father and his cause (Kastan 1). David Scott Kastan points out that “for Hamlet, however, to accept the filial obligation sounded in his name is to disregard and dismiss all other relations he has established” (1). He is trying to convey here that if Hamlet does step up and take revenge on his father’s murderer, he would be destroying his previous relationships with anyone he knew if they found out he fought murder with murder. This worsens Hamlet’s situation, because his relations to his father are so strong he feels he must avenge him, but as Kastan suggests, Hamlet is “only the son, sworn to remember and revenge his father” (1). Hamlet, however, commits himself to his father, to symbolize him; as his son and as his agent (Kastan 1). According to the ghost King Hamlet, “to be Hamlet, to deserve the name” “is to be a revenger” (Kastan 2). Hamlet later discovers that revenge is not the right thing to do. As Kastan ... ... middle of paper ... ...t as Hamlet is obligated to hear, he is also obligated to avenge him. This is also true because the ghost wants Hamlet to remember him, and when Hamlet is running around, trying to get his companions to swear to secrecy, the ghost is there screaming “swear!” (Rose 2). Works Cited Kastan, David Scott. "'His semblable is his mirror': Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge." Shakespeare Studies. 19.( 1987): 111-124. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 111-124. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Pennsauken High School - CamNet. 16 Nov. 2009 . Rose, Mark. "Hamlet and the Shape of Revenge." English Literary Renaissance 1.2 (Spring 1971): 132-143. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.

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